In the first of several planned reports to the Plano school board, staff told trustees in a work session April 20 that their instructional plan for next year is being built around the idea that everybody is coming back. Chief Operating Officer Theresa Williams called it an “updated brick-and-mortar” plan with a possible virtual option.
“In four months, we will have our kids back,” she said. “We’ll blink, and August will be here.”
The first semester will be from Aug. 11-Dec. 17, and the second semester will be from Jan. 5, 2022-May 27, 2022 with spring break from March 7-14. The bell schedule will be the same as it was before the pandemic shutdown, staff said.
This was good news, according to trustees, who nonetheless expressed concern that the instruction would remain mask-to-mask rather than face-to-face. However, staff said they are optimistic.
“We’re waiting for guidance,” Superintendent Sara Bonser said. “But if we keep going in the direction we’re going, school’s going to look more like pre-COVID.” She said school could be even better because of what the district learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as maximizing technology. For instance, the district is planning for students to be able to check out their district-provided laptops instead of leaving them at school overnight.
The virtual academy option would be a stand-alone school, with its own curricula and staff, for students who still have health concerns or need the flexibility. Staff indicated this will require significant planning and will depend on decisions yet to be made by the state Legislature.
Meanwhile, students will once again be able to sign up for summer programs such as cheerleading, drill team, band and sports camps with UIL guidelines.
Also during the work session, Chief Financial Officer Randy McDowell reported that due to a decline in student enrollment, next year’s budget will include up to 500 fewer teachers and staff. That will save the district about $10 million, he said.
McDowell emphasized this will not be due to “any type of layoff or reduction in force” but rather due to natural attrition, which averages about 12% annually.
Staff will continue presenting the return-to-school plan at board meetings next month.